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Republican Proposal Puts 'National Interest' Requirement On US Science Agency

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the otherwise-the-terrorist-win dept.

Government 382

ananyo writes "Key members of the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking to require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to justify every grant it awards as being in the 'national interest.' The proposal, included in a draft bill from the Republican-led House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology and obtained by Nature, would force the NSF to document how its basic science grants benefit the country. The requirement is similar to one in a discussion draft circulated in April by committee chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas). At the time, scientists raised concerns that 'national interest' was defined far too narrowly. The current draft bill provides a more expansive definition that includes six goals: economic competitiveness, health and welfare, scientific literacy, partnerships between academia and industry, promotion of scientific progress, and national defense. But many believe that predicting the broader impacts of basic research is tantamount to gazing into a crystal ball. 'All scientists know it's nonsense,' says John Bruer, president of James S. McDonnell Foundation and former co-chair of an NSF task force that examined requiring scientists to state the 'broader impacts' of their work in grant applications."

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All I can say to that is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350217)

Who?

National Interest? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350235)

Maybe they should start by requiring the military to demonstrate how everything it spends is in the 'National Interest'.

I think you'd lose a lot of pork.

Re:National Interest? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350367)

Maybe they should start by requiring the military to demonstrate how everything it spends is in the 'National Interest'.

Response from military:
"it pertects us from them a-rab terryrist bastards"
(approve; repeat until requests are exhausted)

Meanwhile, from science:
"This will help us learn more ab-"
(reject immediately at mention of "learning", order thug-like security to issue enhanced interrogation until the stupid nerd knows never to ask the bullies for help ever again)

Re:National Interest? (4, Insightful)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 9 months ago | (#45350485)

This is something I've never understood about the military: anyone bright enough to achieve more than a grunt rank will know that the military hasn't been engaged in mere defense for decades, so why exactly did they join up?

Re:National Interest? (4, Interesting)

SJHillman (1966756) | about 9 months ago | (#45350709)

They would counter that they've been engaged in the *best* defense.

Re:National Interest? (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 9 months ago | (#45350789)

Best kill everyone just to be sure, eh?

Re:National Interest? (3, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | about 9 months ago | (#45351013)

Best kill everyone just to be sure, eh?

From orbit. (It's the *only* way to be sure.)

Re:National Interest? (2)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 9 months ago | (#45351029)

Technically the only way to be sure is to get to the ground and comb it to check.

Re:National Interest? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350759)

Dunno about yall, but I joined the US Army to attack.

Re:National Interest? (4, Informative)

lgw (121541) | about 9 months ago | (#45350607)

Maybe they should start by requiring the military to demonstrate how everything it spends is in the 'National Interest'.

I think you'd lose a lot of pork.

The military has been doing that for years. These days, the primary skill needed by general officers is planning equipment and staff reductions while keeping some ability to fight. It's quite eye-opening to watch the talks by senior military staff that make their way to YouTube, and see e.g. an admiral talking about how the Navy plans to lose a carrier battle group - not in war, but to congress.

For everyone who delights in America having a weaker military, don't worry, it's definitely coming. This NSF story is just one of hundreds of similar stories (but this one is News for Nerds).

We're broke. The congresscritters are cutting everything except checks mailed to supporters as fast as they can. I expect a 5-10 year reprieve soon here, as the economy is recovering and the tax base along with it, but at the next economic downturn it will all collapse.

Oh, well, the important stuff (other then the military) is done at the state and local level anyhow. Roads and schools and police and firefighting and so on can get by without a functional federal government (some would argue that's already the case).

Re:National Interest? (1, Insightful)

Ultracrepidarian (576183) | about 9 months ago | (#45350721)

We need to pick our battles, not leap at every opportunity.

Re:National Interest? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350739)

Oh, well, the important stuff (other then the military) is done at the state and local level anyhow. Roads and schools and police and firefighting and so on can get by without a functional federal government (some would argue that's already the case).

Now what in the hell makes you think that state and more local accounts are less broke than the fed?

They're all of them either deeply in debt, or they rely on Federal money to keep the roads and schools and police running, or both.

Re:National Interest? (1)

lgw (121541) | about 9 months ago | (#45351095)

w what in the hell makes you think that state and more local accounts are less broke than the fed?

They're all of them either deeply in debt, or they rely on Federal money to keep the roads and schools and police running, or both.

A great point. The difference is: the local are failing now, and many of the have already adjusted to reality and learned they need to cut the politically popular stuff too (and discovered it wasn't the end of the world).. Even the city in California I used to live in has already seen the truth and changed their direction on spending.

By the time the federal government falls down, many local and sate governments will have already dusted themselves off and started over.

Re:National Interest? (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#45350833)

It's quite eye-opening to watch the talks by senior military staff that make their way to YouTube, and see e.g. an admiral talking about how the Navy plans to lose a carrier battle group - not in war, but to congress.

Considering that we have 10 carriers, our NATO allies have 8 more, and all countries that could plausibly be considered "enemies" have a total of two, this seems like a reasonable place to cut spending. Citation: List of aircraft carriers by country [wikipedia.org]

For everyone who delights in America having a weaker military, don't worry, it's definitely coming.

Cheaper doesn't have to mean weaker. Cutting a carrier battle group will save tens of billions, but make little difference to our national security. Training soldiers to understand Arabic or Pashtun language and culture would cost a tiny fraction of that, and would likely make a bigger difference.

Re:National Interest? (1, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | about 9 months ago | (#45351117)

Sure, whatever. I'm sure the armchair generals and admirals here on /. can do a better job of figuring out what to cut than professionals with 30 years of experience in the field. Why not, we make the same silly comments in every other specialty, from physics to biology. "Oh, in five minutes I saw the something the professional experts aren't smart enough to see, and there are no flaws in my idea!" Sure you did.

Can the same test... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350245)

...be applied to politicians? (of all colours)

Impossible requirement (5, Insightful)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 9 months ago | (#45350253)

The problem is that you don't, and usually can't, know what the results of basic research are going to be. For example, it'd be really hard to show how research into the electrical characteristics of silicon would be in the national interest, because on it's own (without knowing what'll come from it) you can't show how it'll satisfy any of those criteria. Yet without that research we wouldn't have semiconductors, which means no integrated circuit chips, which means none of the smart bombs and drone aircraft and the massive computer banks that drive the surveillance and data-collection efforts that the Republicans are so fond of supporting as being so crucial to national security.

If something that's so obviously in the national interest couldn't at the time it was proposed meet any of the criteria listed, why in the world should we consider those criteria valid? Yeah, preaching to the choir here...

Silicon Valley driven by military requirements (2, Insightful)

Latent Heat (558884) | about 9 months ago | (#45350313)

The whole of Silicon Valley and the Fairchild Instruments-planar-process birth of the modern semiconductor industry was driven by massive infusions of Federal money, military money. The whole integrated circuit thing was motivated by a solid-state guidance system for ICBMs and other military systems.

The whole of large-scale funding of science and engineering came out of WW-II -- the Manhatten Project and microwave radar.

It is kinda like the early commenters don't know who is paying the bills and why. Oh, noes, the Republicans are making us put some boilerplate sentences into our NSF proposals?

I think people funded through NSF should just chill.

Re:Silicon Valley driven by military requirements (4, Interesting)

Sir_Sri (199544) | about 9 months ago | (#45350603)

The whole of large-scale funding of science and engineering came out of WW-II -- the Manhatten Project and microwave radar.

No, it's been around for a lot longer than that. The french even in the 18th century had a national science policy that was essentially what we're talking about here - things that directly benefit the country. The British had a more laissez faire approach to the whole thing with the Royal Society, and never really congealed a cohesive plan. Since the two regularly stole from each other for a couple of centuries it worked out OK. The british did a lot of fundamental science, the french did a lot of practical stuff, and they just copied each other where it was relevant.

Since the dissolution of the monasteries in 1536 there have been various efforts at funding science in the way we think of it through universities, I suppose arguably you could even go back to the 11th or 12th century in Italy for something similar, though that was much more limited in scope.

Government funding is a sort of odd concept. If you expect rich lords to subsidize the children of other rich lords (who sit in the house of lords) being educated at a government school is that government funding? Not exactly, but it's not really different either. The world has had had government support for industry and research for centuries, but different funding models are well, different. Tax breaks, making members of the government pay for it, making 'The Church' pay for etc. have all been going on for ages.

Re:Silicon Valley driven by military requirements (3, Insightful)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | about 9 months ago | (#45350667)

You are listing applications.
Of course, once these applications are on the horizon, the money starts flowing.
But without basic research, that would never have happened. They would instead have funnelled the money into developing better tubes.

Re:Silicon Valley driven by military requirements (2)

jonsmirl (114798) | about 9 months ago | (#45350985)

I think this more about stopping funding of things like this:

Dr. Li’s project will develop, implement and evaluate a venue-based alcohol and HIV risk reduction intervention center for establishment-based female sex workers in Guangxi, China. The sex trade is more prevalent in Guangxi, Dr. Li said, an area ranked third in the rate of HIV among provinces.

http://prognosis.med.wayne.edu/article/grant-allows-research-to-study-link-between-alcohol-abuse-and-spread-of-hiv [wayne.edu]

If you're going to study hookers, they have to be American hookers.

Re:Silicon Valley driven by military requirements (1)

cusco (717999) | about 9 months ago | (#45351081)

With American hookers you can't limit their intoxicant choice to just alcohol, so it would be harder to control the study group.

Re:Impossible requirement (5, Insightful)

mx+b (2078162) | about 9 months ago | (#45350529)

Some of the professors/scientists I worked with before were great at doing this. Technically you are correct, but these people really knew how to come up with crazy narratives about how important the research is and how it can lead to advances in defense, generate more money, etc. (this was how I originally came to work with them, I fell for the marketing in my more idealistic days; when I couldn't work on what I thought I would because the push was more on doing some research that could be tied to the marketing, I ultimately left).

The unfortunate side of this legislation is that it will cause an opposite effect. The things that will get funding are the BS more-marketing-than-legit-research proposals made by people that don't have a unique thoughtful idea at all (just looking at getting grants and tenure), and the actual true research proposals where someone has a legitimate interest to study and cannot predict its ultimate value will get thrown in the gutter.

It's very sad, let's try not to let this happen. But I guess to do so, not only do you need to stop this type of legislation, but you need good people in general reading the proposals...

Re:Impossible requirement (2)

ArsonSmith (13997) | about 9 months ago | (#45350543)

That's what private enterprise is for.

Re:Impossible requirement (5, Insightful)

dgatwood (11270) | about 9 months ago | (#45350677)

This. By definition, if something is already obviously of benefit to everyone, some company is already doing research on it, and spending government money to subsidize that research provides no benefit whatsoever, because the research would get done anyway. Restrictions like what these senators are proposing fundamentally undermine the usefulness of the NSF, whose sole benefit to humanity is that they fund research that would not otherwise get done. They push the envelope. They explore new ideas whose benefits aren't yet clearly established.

If these people happen to be your senators, please write to them and tell them that this proposal will destroy our nation's ability to compete intellectually in the next century, and sets the stage for total economic collapse in the years to come.

Re:Impossible requirement (1)

deathcloset (626704) | about 9 months ago | (#45350627)

Wonderfully put! An argument and example a lawyer (like the Chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology) would love...wait a minute, why is there a lawyer heading my science committee?

Re:Impossible requirement (4, Informative)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 9 months ago | (#45350713)

Republicans are doing this because every once in a while there's a news story about NSF funds being used to research duck erections or some other weird sounding science.
The story comes out, Republicans decry it as waste/fraud/abuse, then they rail against big government etc etc etc.
http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2013/04/duck-penis-study/63805/ [theatlanticwire.com]

Back in the 70s and 80s, a Democratic Senator used to give out Golden Fleece Awards [wikipedia.org] .
It went pretty much as one would expect, with a lot of "fleecings" turning out to be useful programs
and one liable case that went to the Supreme Court, where the Senator lost and eventually settled out of court.

Re:Impossible requirement (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350839)

This reminds me of Sarah Palin complaining about fruit fly research. People who don't know shit about science need to just get out of the way.

Re:Impossible requirement (4, Insightful)

grammar fascist (239789) | about 9 months ago | (#45350741)

It's not only not impossible, but it's pretty much always possible. You just have to think like someone who chases funding.

Everyone who reviews proposals knows the future is uncertain, so they don't currently expect a proposal to accurately predict, say, how someone's research would benefit math education. The key is to explain how what you're proposing could plausibly help. Doing it well comes down to having a reasonable story, having good salesmanship, and wordsmithing.

The new requirements seem very broadly applicable. For example, I could twist scientific literacy, promotion of scientific progress, and possibly national defense into justifying the grant proposal I'm currently working on. "Scientific progress" in particular would be very easy. I expect it would be similarly easy for any other academic who expects to publish at leat one paper on research that he or she intends to support by an NSF grant.

So this probably wouldn't change anything, except to require another section in every proposal, which would just waste everyone's time. It would save exacly zero dollars, and cost a few for every proposal just by a naive conversion from time to money. There are also one-time costs. The only possible way this could save money is by slowing down the overall process.

While I'm railing, I should also mention that active researchers review other people's NSF proposals. Adding another requirement takes time they could use to, I dunno, do useful research?

Everyone who chases funding knows how to play the game. Adding rules won't keep them from getting money, and it'll cost time.

Re:Impossible requirement (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45351111)

> The problem is that you don't, and usually can't, know what the results of basic research are going to be.

All you have to do is exaggerate with pseudo-scientific or pop-sci claims, eg. "70% of the mice tested prefer the carbon nanotubes and jam mixture over the pure carbon nanotubes spread. These results may lead to super-fast microchips and cheaper solar cells."

What about Climate Change? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350261)

Surely if you put that on your application you're sure of a grant...?

Re:What about Climate Change? (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#45350465)

It's certainly only in the interest of the nation and its industry if your results find that the US can pollute at leisure, but everyone else has to uphold stricter standards than the Kyoto protocol requires. Betcha get whatever grant money you need for that one!

I'm for it, if... (5, Funny)

aralin (107264) | about 9 months ago | (#45350263)

I'm for this proposal, if the same bill will include a requirement for all military financing to declare ahead of time which military conflict the weapon will be used with specifics and financial analysis of the impact for dollar compared to current weapons.

Re:I'm for it, if... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350391)

The continuing war with North Korea, jeez

I thought everyone knew that!

(State of Emergency since 1950)

Re:I'm for it, if... (3, Insightful)

dontbemad (2683011) | about 9 months ago | (#45350641)

I find it kind of sad that, at the time of this comment's writing, this has been rated +5 Funny and not +5 Insightful.

Re:I'm for it, if... (0)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#45350823)

I've been on record before in criticizing most publicly funded research, but that's because I think research, basic or otherwise can and should be treated as yet another expenditure of public funds and judged on its perceived merits (and when one does that, publicly funded research doesn't fare too well).

But for the US situation publicly funded research doesn't stand out as particularly broken. The proposal would judge this half a percent or so portion of the US budget far more harshly that the rest of the budget. Military or entitlement spending doesn't receive this sort of attention. That's two thirds of US spending right there.

Finally, what's really going to happen here that changes how public funding gets spent? Superficially, it's just more overhead to rationalize the research in the context of the proposed bill. That strikes me as a complete waste of effort. Plus, it may toss in unintended consequences that mess up the whole system.

That is easy ... (5, Insightful)

perpenso (1613749) | about 9 months ago | (#45350265)

Key members of the U.S. House of Representatives are seeking to require the National Science Foundation (NSF) to justify every grant it awards as being in the 'national interest.'

It is in our national interest to be on the leading edge of science and technology, therefore basic research is in the national interest.

Re:That is easy ... (1)

komodo685 (2920329) | about 9 months ago | (#45350475)

I hope this is just a poor attempt for tea party candidates to say they tried to cut wasteful government spending for egghead scientists, but the more cynical part of me assumes it is serious and even likely to pass.

If government isn't going to support expensive research with unknown fruits who will?

I remember seeing a youtube clip of Neil deGrasse Tyson explaining how the British parliment failed to fund early electromagnetism research because it had no apparent use. Wise choice eh?

Re:That is easy ... (-1, Offtopic)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | about 9 months ago | (#45351121)

"The Government" doesn't actually have its own money. It has to take it, with threat of violence, from the population it was supposed to leave alone.

That money isn't really for "The Government" to give away to every "scientist" who can write a grant.

Re:That is easy ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350489)

You don't need science or technology to wage a religious war of ideology. The War on Terror is a religious war of ideology.

America doesn't need science anymore since the Soviet Union has already collapsed.

Re:That is easy ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350703)

The War on Terror is a religious war of ideology.

Not from the U.S. perspective. From the U.S. perspective the War on Terror is a war on people who in fact attacked the U.S. due to their religious ideology.

That said we've done a poor job at times conducting this war but lets not pretend on which side the intolerant religious extremism resides.

Re:That is easy ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350801)

tru dat.

now would you care to explain the Iraq war?

Re:That is easy ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350855)

lets not pretend on which side the intolerant religious extremism resides.

GOD BLESS AMERICA, IN GOD WE TRUST

Re:That is easy ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350617)

The National Science Foundation Workgroup (NSFW) is looking into the issue, from home.

Re:That is easy ... (1)

k6mfw (1182893) | about 9 months ago | (#45351103)

oh great, "not safe for work" but seriously, is it a workgroup within NSF or a shill for a company seeking funds from the govt?

Re:That is easy ... (0)

BringsApples (3418089) | about 9 months ago | (#45351145)

What you said is correct. But maybe they're pushing these scientists off on the private sector for a (well planned) reason. Maybe one day Google or MS will be the ones handing out grants, based on their own priorities of course. I think both of those companies currently have more money than the US anyway, sitting in other countries (US tax free).

But of course this will send top scientists to other countries (or prevent them from coming to the US to begin with) in search of proper funding. I wonder if that would have any impact on the US...

Knowledge is Power (0, Flamebait)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 9 months ago | (#45350267)

Power is in the national interest.

Grant please.

QED.

Unless you are a supporter of that party that believes that ignorance and truthiness is power, of course.

Re:Knowledge is Power (-1, Troll)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45350327)

Unless you are a supporter of that party that believes that ignorance and truthiness is power, of course.

Repubmocrats?

Or are we still pretending that the One Party is actually two?

Re:Knowledge is Power (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 9 months ago | (#45350523)

Any party to the right of CPUSA, or to the left of the National Alliance.

If it's good enough for science (3, Insightful)

OhANameWhatName (2688401) | about 9 months ago | (#45350277)

This is an incredibly good idea. And if it's good enough for science, it should also be good enough for government. Political campaign funding should be the first thing to be justified in relation to this 'national interest'. Military expenditure, committees, homeland security, the CIA, the NSA, secrecy, court appointments, taxation, the TSA, body scanners, laws .. well, just about everything should meet this criteria shouldn't it?

I suppose that if the politicians were required to be held up to their own standards, who would be making the judgement? Hmmm what a pickle hey!

Re:If it's good enough for science (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 9 months ago | (#45350339)

This is an incredibly good idea. And if it's good enough for science, it should also be good enough for government. Political campaign funding should be the first thing to be justified in relation to this 'national interest'. Military expenditure, committees, homeland security, the CIA, the NSA, secrecy, court appointments, taxation, the TSA, body scanners, laws .. well, just about everything should meet this criteria shouldn't it?

Wait, you think it should apply to us?!?!?!?!

On second thought, maybe this isn't such a great idea...

-- Congress

Re:If it's good enough for science (1)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#45350513)

The cheek of some subjects, wanting competent leaders...

Before you scream about it... (2)

Antipater (2053064) | about 9 months ago | (#45350297)

"Promotion of scientific progress" seems pretty broad. Can anyone think of some basic research going on right now that wouldn't fit in one of those six categories? Seems to me like this is just an extra layer of paperwork, rather than an actual restriction on science, despite coming from vaunted luddite Lamar Smith.

Re:Before you scream about it... (2)

darkwing_bmf (178021) | about 9 months ago | (#45350401)

That's what I thought too. It doesn't seem like a big deal to get upset about.

Re:Before you scream about it... (5, Interesting)

NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) | about 9 months ago | (#45350767)

It's a big deal to get upset about because it gives the flat-earthers and short-sighted "save money by shorting infrastructure" types an oppurtunity to grandstand about how [thing I don't get/agree with] is a "waste of taxpayer money". I've seen these types fighting against things like tide buoys and seismic and weather sensors (i.e. data collection for things they might not support - like not fouling the global commons) because they're a "waste of money". We need LESS politicizing of science funding, not MORE.

Re:Before you scream about it... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350903)

And on the other end of the spectrum you have the "scientists" screaming about things like how the SouthWestern Bald Eagle is its own, distinct population and therefore it should be kept on the endangered list, even while Bald Eagles are one of the few success stories.

The translation: "I'm going to lose my job where I sit in a truck and get paid to watch birds all day. That can't be allowed to happen."

And before you say all the things you listed are truly necessary answer this question:

When was the last time you heard a bureaucrat say "We've met our objective, we're done." instead of "We've done X like we planned, now we need to continue X and do Y as well- giving me a big raise in the process." ?

Re:Before you scream about it... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45351147)

You liberals got what you wanted. The country is bankrupt in paying out entitlements.
Why are you upset that spending cuts have to happen elsewhere because entitlemtns can't be touched?

Really, you did ask for this. No, you BEGGED for this to happen. Enjoy wathing that NASA money go into the SNAP / Obamaphone / Obamacare / fake SSDI payments / and on and on. It needs to come from somewhere and you voted for it NOT to come from paying people to not take care of themselves.

Re:Before you scream about it... (4, Insightful)

suutar (1860506) | about 9 months ago | (#45350633)

so at best it's a waste of time, and at worst it's a(nother) way for someone to arbitrarily reject research proposals.

Re:Before you scream about it... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350657)

Seems to me like this is just an extra layer of paperwork, rather than an actual restriction on science

Perhaps a Boiling frog [wikipedia.org] ?

Politicians and science don't mix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350319)

They're certainly not the first to try crap like this. And yes, it's crap. Whether defined as "national interest" or "relevance to society" or whatever term you'd like to cook up, science just doesn't work that way. Of course there's "research" that's the country is better off not spending tax money on, but the problem is that far too often you only know that afterwards. Risk of sponsoring and all that.

I'm sure you all can come up with examples of research that wouldn't pass muster to any reasonable standard of relevance a politician might think up, yet proves to be invaluable later, sometimes much later. Boole's work, for example.

The thing is, even with the wastage, the country, even the world, is better off in the long run. Too bad politicians are notoriously bad at this "long run" thing. Contrast with the beltway bandits and the military/security/intelligence/industrial complex that has these politicians firmly in its pockets. You could make the case that cutting massively down on that would instantly prevent more wastage and even improve security, not to mention give productivity back to the real economy (as opposed to the one held aloft entirely on tax money) than cutting down all research funding to zilch ever could. But, your tax-funded lobbyist dollars at work.

Wait, what? (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 9 months ago | (#45350325)

While I'm all for accountability this bill reeks! Most "science" funding can not and should be not tied to "national interests", they should be tied to advancing the citizens of the society as a whole.

Oh I can see it now!

"Dear Leader,

We, the poor and humble citizens are requesting a science project to defend ourselves against.. um.. Imperialism. This science will no doubt halt the enemies advances against your national interests, which is of course primarily the protection of us poor and humble servants.. erm.. citizens.

We thank the great leader for considering our humble request.

Sincerely, the Scientists researching Astronomy.

ps. please send more rice, we are starving!

Re:Wait, what? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350501)

Notice: If you post anonymously do not expect a reply.

Why not? Are you some sort of elitist or something?

Re:Wait, what? (1)

s.petry (762400) | about 9 months ago | (#45350619)

Because if you are anonymous it's impossible to tell between you and another anonymous poster. This makes a conversation extremely difficult, and yes I have had Anonymous people yell "I never said that" if I refer to a post by someone anonymous.

Note that I don't state that I refuse to reply, I state not to expect a reply.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

suutar (1860506) | about 9 months ago | (#45350649)

Or perhaps it's just "I doubt they'll ever see the response, so why bother?"

What about the defense department? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350333)

Why exactly don't we hold the same standards to the defense department? Like those planes that get built and then are immediately retired because they are antiquated and useless?

A few of those planes is a much larger number than what the NSF dishes out?

Let's add the same language (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350351)

to the Farm Bill, for subsidies, price controls, and purchases of grain by the Fed. government.

USA is finished (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350365)

Science is always in the national interest. If one nation will not pursue science, another will, and science brings Victory. During the 20th century Cold War, America understood this basic fact of existence. But this is the 21st century, and America is done.

Duck Penii (1)

drfred79 (2936643) | about 9 months ago | (#45350375)

They are corkscrewed. Taxpayers paid millions of dollars to study them. Luckily I think the United States government has a national interest in their study because we got screwed.

Citation please? (4, Insightful)

Valdrax (32670) | about 9 months ago | (#45350521)

Taxpayers paid millions of dollars to study them.

Not to go all Wikipedia on you, but [citation needed].

You're probably one of those people who think that NASA and food stamps are 20% of the federal budget each.

Re:Citation please? (0)

drfred79 (2936643) | about 9 months ago | (#45350715)

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2013/03/25/yes-we-should-study-duck-penises.html [thedailybeast.com]

This is for just the one study. There were others in the same field. And yes I read and linked to a Daily Beast article to explode your brain about people who care enough to look into the Federal Budget.

Re:Duck Penii (2)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#45350749)

A part of me is dying to learn why the heck you know that. Another part really, really, really does not want to know.

Re:Duck Penii (1)

drfred79 (2936643) | about 9 months ago | (#45350863)

A part of me is dying to learn why the heck you know that. Another part really, really, really does not want to know.

The strain on our Federal budget and perpetual deficit due to things like duck penii studies? Or the duck penii shape in general? I read about the shape of their penii from the Daily Beast and I care about how much was spent on researching them because I get the impression from this anecdote and many others how bad we are at controlling waste, pork, and fraud.

If you like your science (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350405)

You can keep your science!

Hey, if it's good enough for health care...

Oh? (3, Interesting)

znanue (2782675) | about 9 months ago | (#45350435)

Seems kinda redundant doesn't it? Science should be considered naturally in the national interest.

then they will bitch about the Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350437)

when they get ahead of United States in technology development.

Re:then they will bitch about the Chinese (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350691)

But wait, doesn't China make all our stuff? That's means they're in debt to us, right? That'll keeps them Chinas in line it will.

Simple litmus test (3, Insightful)

nickmalthus (972450) | about 9 months ago | (#45350497)

If it kills, imprisons, or surveils it gets unfettered funding. We have priorities in America, land of the free, home of the brave!!!

Republican scum.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350507)

They would put us back into the stone age where women were second class citizens and slavery was legal.

I'm All For It (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350545)

Far too much money is wasted, today, on supposed scientific research funding that is of value to no one but the grant recipients or some small special interest. I think that it is perfectly reasonable for there to be a requirement for a national benefit/interest in the research and that it isn't some crap like lizard census in Patagonia.

Re:I'm All For It (1)

shellster_dude (1261444) | about 9 months ago | (#45351125)

Each year it is a national joke some of the idiotic studies that get federal grants. If the federal government is paying for it, then it makes perfect sense that the grantee should justify why the research will benefit the country.

Political parties ... (4, Interesting)

Skapare (16644) | about 9 months ago | (#45350573)

... should be required to justify their national interest.

reality check (4, Informative)

gerardrj (207690) | about 9 months ago | (#45350583)

From their own web site, the "...NSF's FY 2014 budget request is $7.626 billion"

$0,007.6 billon NSF budget. The Federal budget for 2014 is about $3.77 trillion (wikipedia) To put that on the same scale:
$3,770.0 billion total US budget. So the NSF budget is (I think I did the math correctly) 0.2% of the total budget. Less than 1/4 of one percent!

$3 billion is what the Navy is spending on a singe new Zumwalt destroyer (the next 4 in that fleet will cost $2.5B each) to fight nonexistent maritime enemies. That's two NSF budgets for ships that will do nothing but cost money to operate for the next 20 years.

I think this is the religious right pushing to get the US Government to stop funding science that disproves their church teachings and bible scripture.

For the remedials in the back... (2)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 9 months ago | (#45350585)

...the purpose of this is to specifically eliminate uncomfortable research as not "in the national interest".

Like what has been recently happening up in Canadia.

Over what time frame? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350645)

Research in number theory dates back to the dawn of written history. However, public-key cryptography was only invented in the last half of this century, and was largely based on all the math which came before it. More broadly, a small but appreciable percentage of discoveries in basic science and mathematics pay off handsomely in the national interest scale many later (turn-of-the-century special relativity and nuclear physics come to mind, for instance). Nobody is smart enough to know which ones will do this.

I say what we really need is some mechanism which makes politicians accountable for their decisions over a similar time frame. Come on, let's brainstorm this one out.

Incidentally, the NSF already considers national interest to be important; it is one of the "broader impacts" criteria, among benefits to education, benefit to society generally, etc. All grants have to explain to what extent their work has broader impact. This really does matter in deciding which projects are awarded grants.

Hey give them some credit... (1)

Tetetrasaurus (1859006) | about 9 months ago | (#45350647)

... they didn't also require that all experiments take into account Earth being only 5000 years old!

my understanding is (1)

themushroom (197365) | about 9 months ago | (#45350673)

the Nazis and Communists made the same requirement: what is in it for the Party?

Incredibly bad idea (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350679)

I read through a few of the comments applauding this. It makes me sigh a little inside.

The fact is a number of our inventions have been accidental. Moreover, no one can predict whether research intended to produce a viable product will nor that purely theoretical science won't produce the foundations for a viable product in the future. We reduce the possibility of good outcomes by limiting ourselves in this fashion. Purely theoretical science is necessary for more breakthroughs.

the goal (1)

Khashishi (775369) | about 9 months ago | (#45350681)

Obviously, every grant already supports "promotion of scientific progress". It seems the goal is to inject political influence into the decision making.

Because... (5, Informative)

snaFu07 (1111263) | about 9 months ago | (#45350701)

"One day sir, you may tax it."
Faraday's reply to William Gladstone, then British Chancellor of the Exchequer (minister of finance), when asked of the practical value of electricity (1850), as quoted in The Harvest of a Quiet Eye : A Selection of Scientific Quotations (1977), p. 56 (wikiquote)

Basic research is the key to progress! (4, Insightful)

Opportunist (166417) | about 9 months ago | (#45350745)

Basic research is where the revolutionary new discoveries in science are. Applied research can only take what we have and improve on it. Certainly also relevant and necessary, but it does not move us ahead in any way that's even close to the leaps and bounds fundamental research can grant us.

The main problem with basic research is simply that it takes quite a while to produce marketable results. That's a given. It's a long, long way from "hey, that's interesting" to "and here's our new thingamajig". Take lasers. The first, theoretical, research for lasers was done as early as 1917, and it took way into the 50s for the first halfway decent models to come into existence, far from commercially interesting or marketable. Mostly a "toy" for scientists, too expensive to build and operate and way to unstable and unreliable. But things evolved, and today we have BluRay and laser cutters, whole industries that live and die by the very existence of that product.

Now, I can hear someone butt in and say that of course if we need some technology, someone will develop it. We need a way to store sound and (moving) pictures, we need a way to store data, so it will come into existence. That's right. It will. But nobody, at least nobody who bothers to invest money, will look at alternative, better, ways to do it. What will happen is that the old and tried ways get improved. So today we'd probably have perfectly error correcting Victrolas, playing shellac records and removing even the tiniest bit of crackling and noise in post processing before sending it to the speaker instead of CDs that simply eliminated that problem by moving from analogue to digital data storage. We'd also probably still have core memory, of course a lot smaller and faster than back in the 50s, but without the advent of the microchip and research in semiconductors, we'd still be at radio tubes heating up our rooms. Of course, the tubes would get smaller and their power consumption lower with time, but the technology itself would stay the same.

Well, much like we actually have now, we just do the very same crap one step up. Essentially, concerning the underlying technology, the latest intel chip is not different in any way from an old 80x86. Yes, it's smaller, it uses lower voltage, thus it can work faster and whatnot, but in the end, it is the same technology.

Without basic research that opens up a new way, we can only get so far. Of course once the way is shown applied research has to improve and polish, but you can only improve so far. At some point, you have reached what's possible. And then you have to look for other ways.

And with a lot of our tech we ARE at the point where further polishing won't do us much good.

Vote for democrats (0)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 9 months ago | (#45350751)

As said before you cant really work with folks who think the world is less than 5000 years old and gut feelings for searches of truth rather than facts.

Just like the oil industry supports GOP the science industry needs to do the same with domocrats. Come on folks both parties are the same? Really?

Good, but for different reasons? (1)

Krishnoid (984597) | about 9 months ago | (#45350807)

Maybe it'll improve scientists' ability to explain their work to the layperson? That is, allowing a loose interpretation of 'explain', working your way through 'dumb down' all the way to 'tell/make up an engaging story'.

Re:Good, but for different reasons? (1)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 9 months ago | (#45350997)

Maybe it'll improve scientists' ability to explain their work to the layperson? That is, allowing a loose interpretation of 'explain', working your way through 'dumb down' all the way to 'tell/make up an engaging story'.

I seldom have trouble understanding any scientist's explanations. But the idea of trying to explain science to a person who hates scientists, or finds Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus as an important interest in life - well, that's a really tall order.

Statists. Statists everywhere. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350917)

So hilarious to see all the statists coming out of the woodwork to attack this plan. If it were up the usual slashdot lieberals, the NSF would get unlimited direct access to every americans checking account.

well I for one am glad to see there is at least one party still bringing common sense ideas to goverment.

The method (2)

Ol Olsoc (1175323) | about 9 months ago | (#45350951)

behind the madness?

The base is in large part creationist, and this would allow them to try to put the stops to any biological research. Which biological research is like a punch in the face to their faith.

What are "national interests"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45350991)

What are "national interests"?

Naively, I would guess that "national interests" are whatever is in the best interests of the US-based capitalist plutocracy and the congressional minions they control via re-election campaign cash.

So I would guess that supporting the "national interests" means rigging the global markets and coercing foreign law to favor the interests of US corporate profit-taking.

Am I on the right track here?

Is this anything other than the obvious "ban funding on any research that can't be exploited to put cash into the pockets of the 1%"?

Is this anything other than a continuation of the same old authoritarian/kleptocratic money and power grab that we've all grown so sadly accustomed to?

Innovation be damned (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45351043)

When you set up dependency frameworks you limit innovation.

Another Republican Attack on Science (-1, Troll)

kawabago (551139) | about 9 months ago | (#45351053)

Republicans hate science because knowledge is power and they want to keep people as powerless as possible.

Re:Another Republican Attack on Science (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#45351109)

Ironic, because it's the Demoncrats that want to see everyone dependent on government for everything.

They've replaced the 19th century model for slavery they fought for with a 20th century model, but at their heart they still want to tell you what to do.

Talk about subjective. (1)

gallondr00nk (868673) | about 9 months ago | (#45351089)

How on earth would you define something so vague as "the national interest"?

So presumably the national interest is whatever the Republican/Democrat party say it is. Fine. But don't bullshit everyone with some fanciful semantic spook like a "national interest".

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